Christ Church St Andrews in Herne Bay have been expanding their community activities during lockdown and CommunityAd caught up with their vicar, Anthony Everett, to find out more.
How did you initially get involved with the community?
When we heard that the Job Centre in Herne Bay was closing, we offered to set up a facility in one of our buildings adjacent to our Church, in Williams Street, staffed by volunteers who would offer support with job search and benefits applications and have the ability to signpost people to other appropriate organisations. The South Room Community Hub opened in May 2018 and built on the work we had previously been doing with the FoodBank at our sister church St Andrews. The South Room Hub has WiFi, computers, a printer and a coffee bar.
How have things changed during lockdown?
We were unable to open the South Room Hub initially, but teamed up with the FoodBank and acted as a local distribution point, collecting bags from their warehouse behind Riverside church and doing home deliveries to those in need.
It soon became apparent that some people receiving food, from the centralised shielding programme, did not want everything they were receiving and were initially unable to stop deliveries, so we started collecting food from them and taking it up to the FoodBank, ensuring that food wasn’t wasted and got recycled to those in need.
In January, the FoodBank were able to recommence direct deliveries and no longer needed us as additional support. However, we recognised that there was still a need for a local access point, for emergency food, so we started The Larder, also out of the South Room Hub. Our aim being to complement the work of the FoodBank by providing a town-based, no questions asked, emergency facility. Sally and her team are open every Friday from 10am-12noon giving out packs of dried food and toiletries to those in urgent need. We have received huge support for this from Morrisons in Herne Bay and Hampton Stores and also our congregation and local community.
How have you been keeping in touch with your own congregation during lockdown?
We were blessed that we had just launched a new website a month prior to lockdown, which became the focal point for our services and worship.
I initially started doing written daily blogs and services which were posted on the website (we also hand delivered to those without computer access), this expanded into a pre-recorded service, available on YouTube to anyone, with a chat with me afterwards on Facebook. We have also had Zoom prayer gatherings and home groups and I am delighted to say we are now also in church again on Sundays. Currently at 9am but added an 11am from 18th April. Two opportunities to meet!
What are your plans post lockdown?
We are certainly looking forward to meeting again as a church congregation and anyone wishing to join us would be assured of a warm welcome, details of services can be found on our website.
The Larder will continue to operate on Fridays from 10am-12noon and have plans to expand the opening times, subject to demand. The South Room Community Hub reopened Fridays from 23rd April and is staffed by volunteers who have been receiving additional training, during lockdown, to better help support people looking for work or who need help applying for benefits. The South Room and Larder are now open twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays between 10am – 12noon.
In addition, partnering with The Beacon Church Debt Centre, one of our volunteers is qualifying as a CAP Debt Coach and will be available for appointments, for those who need to address financial concerns. We are also looking to run the CAP Money Management Course, for anyone who wants to take control of their finances and is struggling to know how.
Is there any message you would like to pass on to local readers during these difficult times?
Are you taking donations at the moment with how difficult things are? If so, how can readers contribute?
We are privileged to have generous givers but if you want to you can donate to our Food Larder by dropping food at the South Room, William Street on a Friday between 10am-12 noon. All this will be given out to those in need.